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WOODS ‘N’ WATER: An old friend gets Mike back in the hunt

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: An old friend gets Mike back in the hunt


“There he is, Mike,” Pete Picone whispered as the big gobbler got in range. “Shoot!”

“I can’t see it. The tree is in the way!” I replied.

And with that, the huge male turkey took to wing and safety from this old hunter.

I should tell you that this was my first turkey hunt in a couple of years because of some medical issues that seem to plague us as we age. I was talking with Pete Picone, a hunting buddy and very close friend of mine, and he wanted to know if I had been doing any hunting lately.

If you remember, Peter and his son Neil came to my aid a couple of years ago when I tagged my last buck on an opening day hunt here in Connecticut.

Anyway, I told him I had not been hunting and he insisted I should give it a try. He said if I wanted to try for wild turkey, he would go with me and keep an eye on me, and this made my darlin’ Edna feel a bit better about my going out into the turkey woods.

I have to tell you, a hunting trip with a guy like Pete Picone is akin to going on a field trip to learn all about nature and the wild things around us. So many of us miss out on the best part of a hunting trip: seeing and hearing Mother Nature at her best.

Picone toils as a Wildlife Biologist for the Connecticut DEEP Wildlife Division and has also authored a book, “Wildlife Is My Passion.” It’s a great read and is chock full of facts on some of our wild things that might even amaze you. I know Pete Picone never fails to amaze me every time we go out in the woods together.

Picone also narrates field trips for the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association every once in a while. If you get a chance, go on one of them for a really neat learning experience.

So back to the turkey hunting. I had a couple of permits for some private land that I had been successful on over the years, and the landowner graciously gave me an added permit so I would not have to go it alone.

We arrived just as dawn was breaking and headed into the woods to see if we could call in any male turkeys. You see, you can only hunt the male turkey in the spring of the year, and even then only from one-half before sunrise until noon.

I picked the spot we would do our calling from and we settled in to wait until it got light enough.

To just be in the woods in the early morning as so many wild creatures and sounds come alive while other wild critters are ready to sleep is a thrill in itself. Being there with Picone made it even more enjoyable.

As the woods and songbirds began to sing their many varied songs, I was totally amazed that Pete knew just about every one. He even gave me a bit of information on the many birds we heard.

Oh, I have heard these same birds many times, and to me they were simply “birds.” Not to Pete. He knew what kind of bird and he even identified some of the calls for me, like the oriole, thrush and one he called an “oven bird.” He told me how they had made their nest in the ground and then covered the eggs with leaves, thus the name “oven bird.”

The one bird call I did recognize was that of a pileated woodpecker, and he gave us a drumming demonstration as he tapped away at one of the trees in our area.

Pete not only knows the wildlife, he knows the plants and trees around us, as well. He even pointed out an ash tree to me that had been attacked by the invasive Ash Bore.

Pete began to do some turkey calling using a mouth diaphragm, a slate call and a paddle call. He has the calls mastered, but old tom turkey was having none of it.

We stayed in the spot for about an hour simply because I had been so successful at the spot in earlier hunts. We finally decided to call it quits and head back to the car and home, but I was thrilled to just have been out with Pete and having a chance to learn more about the outdoor world I enjoy so much.

We were almost back to my car when Pete grabbed my arm. “Did you hear that?”

“What? I didn’t hear anything,” I replied, thinking how Edna would laugh at that because even with two hearing aids I sometime miss various sounds and noises.

“A gobbler,” Pete whispered, “and he was close. Come on!”

We went back into the woods, but at a different angle, and then I could hear the tom turkey gobbling plain as day. He sounded like he was coming at us as fast as he could.

We had no choice but to grab a spot against a tree and hope for the best. It is always a good thing to be against a tree when you are turkey hunting without a blind of any kind because it breaks up your outline. Believe me when I tell you, a wild turkey is not curious. If they see you, they will be gone in an instant.

Well, Pete called and the turkey kept coming closer.

“There he is, Mike,” Pete prompted. “Shoot!”

Oh, yeah, that was the first line at the beginning of this column, huh? Well, the tom had come in on a circular route, and while Pete could see it in all its glory as plain as day, he wanted me to get the shot and I had a huge double tree in front of me concealing the turkey.

And then he saw us and was gone in a flash.

I think I will have to rank that as one of the best turkey hunts I have ever been on. A morning spent with a young man like Pete Picone, who told me about all of these wild things that I had seen and heard, but did not know their names. I do now.

Seeing that wild turkey and having it come to Pete’s calling was only frosting on the cake, even though we did not tag it. Thanks, Pete.

Gotta run, gang. See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.